The much-loved rabbi of Edgware and Hendon Reform synagogue has died suddenly from coronavirus.
Rabbi Neil Kraft, who was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts, spent 17 years leading the community and was due to retire in a matter of weeks.
He appeared unwell in shul last weekend after conducting part of the Shabbat service via a live stream. He was later admitted to hospital where he was put on a ventilator in intensive care, but died yesterday.
His son Elie wrote: “Despite the NHS doing an amazing job trying to have him, he unfortunately didn’t make it. I don’t really know what to say other than my family and I are completely devastated. Not only did he mean a lot to us. He also meant a lot to the wider Jewish community.”
He added: “While I am extremely grateful for the love and support I know you will want to share, we’d be very appreciative if you’d allow us some space to grieve.
A congregant who asked to remain anonymous said: “Rabbi Kraft’s congregation adored him. He touched many lives and hearts and will be so sorely missed. Words can’t even describe it. Life at EHRS will never be the same again, but has been made all the better for the time Rabbi Kraft spent there.”
Rabbi Kraft led the Woodford and District Liberal Synagogue community and South London Liberal Synagogue before joining Edgware and Hendon Reform.
He leaves behind his wife, Susannah, and two sons.
Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, senior rabbi of the Reform Movement said “we have lost a colleague whose life and work embodied love and care”.
Board of Deputies President Marie van der Zyl paid tribute, saying: “We share the deep sorrow of many in the community at the passing of Rabbi Neil Kraft, of Edgware & Hendon @ReformMovement Synagogue. We wish every comfort to his wife, Susannah, & his two sons. May his memory be for a blessing.”
Mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin tweeted: “I’m heartbroken. Neil was the kindest, warmest soul you could meet. He was a rock to my family at times. I just can’t believe he’s gone.”